Looking for places to visit in the South East of France? Well, I would not skip the Cote d’Azur as it’s a special place. If you’re traveling by train from Italy back to the UK, you’ll most likely pass right through it.
Top 10 Destinations in SE France
(places in order of driving from Italy; not ranked as best to worse)
1. Monaco: casino & nearby garden with meat eating plants
2. Nice: various impressionist art museums.
3. Nice old town. It’s beautiful and filled with fun little shops and places to eat. Did you know that the streets are narrow as a natural ‘air conditioning’-system for the town; not because towns at that time were build that way….
4. St. Paul de Vence: the world famous Maeght Foundation museum; and the fantastic old town itself. Walk along the outskirts of the town and make sure you get a coffee with a view. Gorgeous view, gorgeous town, gorgeous art everywhere!
5. Antibes: see the old market, and the old fort where Picasso used to work (there’s a Picasso museum now), and of course the wonderful harbour. Eat fish in the old town.
6. Villefranche: the Musee Renoir there was the artist’s home for the last twelve years of his life.
7. Biot is an ancient town known for its pottery. Very pittoresquely set on a mountain top.
8. Cannes: old town and harbour side. Gorgeous. Have a wonderful meal on a terrasse with ocean view and enjoy the sun, year round.
9. Grasse: visit the parfume factories and their nearby flower fields
Go beyond this, and drive for a couple of hours more and you’ll be in ..
10. Comptes: a town in inland Provence which is ‘in the middle of nowhere’. In the Auberge you can get a beautiful room and a wonderful 3-course meal that is just unbelievable for its location. Besides the auberge, the pub, the police station, a shop and the great, region-serving bakery, there’s nothing there, … oh besides, of course, its tower church. Beautiful hiking trails nearby. A once in a lifetime experience to be in a town where nothing seems to happen. Therefore, the road is just 1 horse (car) wide. There are campsites/ chambres d’hote not too far out of town.
For the coastal destinations 1-8, I’d find a campsite near Antibes and take daytrips to the other towns. All towns can be reached by train/bus.
There you have it. A great top 10 in the south east of France.
Bormes-les-Mimosas means “the Sunny One” and it’s an accurate description of this medieval village that is perched high on a mountain top.
Bormes-les-Mimosas still has the imposing remains of a castle and the rampart walls that protected it during the Saracen invasions. Its official title as the “village of flowers” was given to Bormes-les-Mimosas for good reason – first because of the flowering trees called “Mimosas” that line the streets and lean out over stone walls are as bright as the sun itself.
And secondly, because no matter what time of year you’re visiting the French Riviera, the beauty of Bormes-les-Mimosa will be sure to please. The sun beats down on the pink-tiled houses that crowd together on both sides of the narrow winding streets and alleys, and window boxes, glazed ceramic pots and gardens overflow with jewel-colored flowers. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time or walked into one of the paintings of an old master.
To those familiar with this quiet little village, one of the most fascinating aspects of Bormes-les-Mimosas are its narrow little alleyways that lead to secret places filled with unexpected treasures. Walk along a narrow alley and turn through a narrow archway and you might find a bubbling fountain, with the flowing water making music for the birds and a lazy cat napping out in warm sunlight. Or walk down a cobblestone staircase and find yourself in the midst of a tiny public garden.
Turn another way and head up a narrow pedestrian walkway and you’ll come across a comfortable old bench that invites you to sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular views of the bay and the Golden Iles in the distance, or the Massif des Maures mountains.
The nearby coast has always played a very important part in the rich history of Bormes-les-Mimosas. In fact, one of the most famous fortresses in the area, “Bregancon” has been one of the official residences of the president of the French Republic. Perhaps because it sits high above the Mediterranean Sea,and offers complete privacy and security as well as its beautiful gardens, thick forest and its own private beach away from the curious and prying eyes of onlookers and the paparazzi, Bregancon has always been a favorite weekend and summer get-away of the the president, his family and visiting heads of state or celebrity guests.
You’re invited to a party! Bormes-les-Mimosas is a must-see to add to your vacation itinerary for the sights, sounds and colors that can only be experienced during festival time! Throughout the spring and summer months, Bormes-les-Mimosas is one of “the” spots for true music lover for classical and folk music concerts. Proud of its rich heritage, culture and traditions, the villagers organize a number of other large-scale events throughout the year, including the “Festival of the Mimosas” during January, the traditional “Corso Fleur” that attracts thousands of visitors every year in February (and which, for those of us who live here, really heralds the coming of spring!)
In May the “Sports en Lumiere” celebrates sports for everyone and is a great time to see many of France’s top-level athletes. Autumn means a celebration of the grape harvests with the “Santo Coupo” and there’s even a car rally in October, for visitors who enjoy a little more excitement. And finally, Bormes-les-Mimosas shouldn’t be missed if you’re planning a trip to the French Riviera in December, because the entire village is transformed into a living “crib” as it is called, and celebrates Christmas and the little Santons figures that Provence is known for with traditional costumes, food and fun.
Looking for a break from the crowded beaches of the French Riviera, or the wall-to-wall people packed into Saint Tropez during the summer months? Come to the harbor of Bormes-les-Mimosas and sit in a sidewalk cafe, sipping on a cool drink while you enjoy watching the yachts and sailboats whose captains have recently begun to discover this beautiful port. Then you can lazily wander along the coastal footpaths to find hidden creeks, and beautiful sandy beaches. Or enjoy the many amenities of the Golden Isles and try scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing or sailing.
Bormes-les-Mimosas is also a haven for painters, potters, ceramists and artisans who work with silk, leather, wool, wood and metal. You’ll also find soap makers and sellers and other vendors who will set up shop on the little alleyways in the summertime, and offer real bargains for those who want to take a little of Provence and the “Sunny One” home with them!
About the Author
Learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide
Nice is in the south of France. The Queen of the French Riviera, which the French call “la Cote d’Azur” (AzureCoast or Blue Coast). It is a wonderful city with lots of charm and character; a mixture of French and Italian cultures where the people are easy-going and friendly even if you don’t speak French.
Although you might think it is a summer resort, you can visit Nice at any time of the year and still have a good time. If you happen to go in the winter, you will be surprised to see flowers in their numerous parks and gardens. Nice has a Mediterranean winter, so the temperature stays around 40 to 50 degrees during the coldest months but if you like skiing, ski resorts such as Valberg and Isola 2000 can be reached by car in one or two hours.
If you go in the summer, get ready to share the city with lots of tourists. The popular streets where most restaurants and cafes are, can get crowded, but they can be a lot of fun if you enjoy people watching; and since most of the streets are closed to traffic, it is not hard to just walk around and enjoy the upbeat atmosphere.
Nice has a major airport and its close location to the city makes getting there a cinch.
Finding a hotel should be easy, since there are plenty of accommodations for all kinds of budgets. The author is a frequent guest of the Meridien Hotel, a 4 star hotel located on the Promenade des Anglais, facing the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges).
-Things to see in Nice:
-Promenade des Anglais.
The Victorian English residents of the 1800’s provided the funds to build the beautiful boulevard, hence its name. It is a wide avenue that follows the bay’s coast line and it’s lined with beautiful palm trees and flowers.
Beautiful and glamorous, it is located at 37 Promenade des Anglais and if you are not rich enough to stay there, you must go and see it.
Winding narrow streets with Italianate buildings painted in earthly colors, describes this old part of the city. You will enjoy strolling. people watching and quaint little shops full of charming provencal crafts.
-Marche aux Fleurs.
Located on the Cours Saleya, the flower market is Open Tuesday through Sunday, 7am-5pm, but if you decide to go, check with your hotel for the hours of operation. You can also have lunch or dinner there, where a large variety of restaurants set up tables and chairs outside where you can dine in a pleasant and fun atmosphere.
-Marc Chagall Museum.
If you like modern art, you can catch a glimpse of the painter’s most important collection. The hours of operation vary depending on the season so check with your hotel clerk before you go.
Nice is so well located that you can take half-day and full-day trips either by car or by public transportation.
Easily reached towns by car or public transportation are: Monaco, Eze, Grasse, St Paul de Vence, Cannes and St Tropez.
A symbol of glamour and elegance, Monaco sits on a beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast. Its most famous town Monte Carlo, has much to offer with its casinos, boutiques and exotic gardens. Don’t forget to visit the village of Monaco, located high on “the rock” as it is affectionally called by the locals. It is a charming town with shops and cafes and a wonderful view of the sea.
This small medieval village perched on a hill is a must see. Both tourists and artists flock to Eze during the summer months because of its picturesque setting and magnificent views. If you are staying in Nice, you can make it a half-day trip or just stop there for lunch and continue to Monaco for a full-day trip. If you are feeling rich, have lunch at the Chevre d’Or. The restaurant offers fine cuisine and breathtaking panoramas. The restaurant is only open for lunch.
Considered the perfume capital of France Grasse is a small hilly town with beautiful parks and panoramic views. I you go to Grasse, you must visit the perfume factories. The biggest is Parfumerie Fragonard. An English speaking guide will show you the process of extracting the perfume from hundreds of pounds of flower petals.
-St Paul de Vence-
A picture perfect medieval town, sitting on top of a hill, St Paul de Vence has been painted by many artists and photographed by thousands of tourists. It is located 19 miles from Nice. Enjoy a meal at the famous Colombe d’Or Restaurant or sip a beer at an outdoor cafe while watching a local game of petanque.
Cannes sits on the shores of La Napoule bay, sorrounded by a backdrop of Mediterranean hills. While Nice has the Promenade des Anglais, Cannes has la Croisette Boulevard, an elegant promenade, lined with palm trees and and gardens. Cannes hosts the famous Cannes Film Festival every year and it is most favored by celebrities. So if you go, make sure to do a lot of people watching, because you never know…
Once a small fishing village, St Tropez is now a summer place for the jet set. Its setting on the southern shore of France, made it attractive to turn-of-the-century artists who were then followed by writers, poets and eventually movie stars and their fans. It is now internationally famous.
So get your tickets, book your hotel and go to the south of France. I promise you will have an unforgettable experience
Here is the Second Part of our personal (and highly subjective) guide to some of the best restaurants in Provence.
You know, the more often I eat Provencal food, either at home or in the places described here, the more convinced I become that the cooking of Provence is the lightest, tastiest, most colorful, most elegant and above all <i>healthiest</i> food in the world. I’ve eaten in other parts of France – mostly in Paris, of course, and also in the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions – and in comparison with Provencal cooking the cuisine of those regions often seems too heavy, too rich, too complicated for my taste.
But, then again, maybe I’m just a little biased!
Please try one or more of these wonderful restaurants if you happen to be lucky enough to find yourself in Provence. I know that you won’t be disappointed. And I know that I’ll be there again very soon!
Auberge La Feniere Route de Cadenet 84160 Lourmarin Vaucluse Tel: 04 90 6811 79 http://www.reinesammut.com
Reine Sammut is recognized as one of the best women chefs in the whole of France. On a hill between the Durance and the Luberon she evokes all the color and sunshine of Provence in her wonderfully inventive cuisine, which could be described as a combination of local Provencal and modern international. One Michelin star, and a loyal local (and international) following. There’s also a cheaper and more informal Bistro just down the road.
Jutting out into the Med, and looking more like a New England lobster shack than a French gourmet restaurant, Guillaume Sourrieu’s L’Epuisette is probably <i>the</i> place in Marseille these days to sample a good, genuine, well-prepared and truly tasty bouillabaisse. All the other great fish and seafood classics are featured too, of course. A lovely place in a lovely spot.
Une Table, au Sud Quai du Port 13000 Marseille Bouches-du-Rhone Tel: 04 91 90 63 5 URL: http://www.unetableausud.com
Marseille is full of restaurants – good, bad and indifferent – and this relative newcomer on a corner of the Vieux Port is definitely one of the better ones. Young chef Lionel Levy trained with Alain Ducasse – so what more can one say? Meat, fish and seafood are of exemplary quality, the desserts are out of this world, and prices for both food and wine are extremely reasonable. And that’s even without the incredible view! Highly recommended.
MAUSSANE LES ALPILLES
Ou Ravi Provençau Avenue de la Vallée-des-Baux 13520 Maussane-les-Alpilles Bouches-du-Rhone Tel: 04 90 54 31 11
This is the place to come for Provençal specialities, and if the weather allows you to eat them in the lovely flowered courtyard, tant mieux! A lovely restaurant in a lovely little village. Charming welcome. Good local wines.
La Petite France Avenue de la Vallée-des-Baux Paradou 13520 Maussane-les-Alpille Bouches-du-Rhone Tel: 04 90 54 41 91
<p>Just outside Maussane on the road to Fontvielle, this converted bakery was once a very tasteful, rather formal restaurant with one Michelin star. Now it has completely changed its style (although still under the same owner-chef) and is now providing a much cheaper, bistro-style food concentrating on fresh, local ingredients.</p>
Le Louis XV Place du Casino 98000 Monte Carlo Monaco Tel: 377 92 16 29 76 URL: http://www.alain-ducasse.com
;Is Monaco really part of Provence? Opinion differs. And who cares? This is one of the world’s great restaurants and we just couldn’t leave it out. Created by master chef Alain Ducasse, this temple of gastronomy has 3 Michelin stars and a score of 19/20 in GaultMillau. It is the epitome of elegance and luxury – and the food is truly unforgettable. Take out a second mortgage, and treat yourself! There is a (relatively) reasonably-priced lunch menu, including wine and coffee. (Note: Gentlemen are expected to wear a jacket and tie, even in the height of summer!)
Alain Assaud has worked with some of the great names of modern French cuisine: Chapel, Troisgros, Vergé. He produces simple, unadorned, even austere, dishes based on good, fresh local produce. A lovely little place in a lovely little town!
La Maison Jaune 15 Rue Carnot 13210 St-Remy-de-Provence Bouches-du-Rhone Tel: 04 90 92 56 14
For years Francois Perraud has been working diligently away in his charming little restaurant in an 18th century former merchant’s house tucked away in one of the little backstreets of St-Remy. His hard work has now been rewarded (not before time) with a Michelin star. Fresh, bright, unfussy cuisine with some nice contemporary touches. Grab a seat on the terrace and look out over the rooftops ….
Le Moulin à Huile Quai du Mal-Foch Vaison-la-Romaine Vaucluse Tel: 04 90 36 20 67<br> URL: http://www.moulin-huile.com/
A converted olive mill on the banks of the river l’Ouvèze provides a suitably elegant setting for Robert Bardot’s inventive, imaginative Provencal cuisine, with just an added touch of Oriental spice here and there. Irreproachable food, wine and service.
About the Author This article has been adapted from the author’s web site dedicated to the food, wine, restaurants and recipes of Provence. You can check it out here:http://www.cafe-de-provence.com